How to Witness to Mormons
There are at least two approaches to use in witnessing to Mormons. We can either debate the doctrines of Mormonism (baptism for the dead, “burning” in the bosom, Joseph Smith as a prophet of God, the validity of the Book of Mormon, the Trinity, “God was once a man,” “protective” underwear, etc.), or we can present the gospel biblically. One creates an atmosphere of contention and often leaves the Christian feeling frustrated, while the other creates an atmosphere of concern for the eternal welfare of the Mormon. Our goal should be to win a soul to Christ rather than merely win a doctrinal argument.
One point of frustration for the Christian is that Mormons often agree when they hear words such as “salvation,” or Jesus as “Savior.” The problem is that their understanding of the words differs from the biblical revelation of the words. “Salvation” for a Mormon can mean the salvation of all humanity—when the “Savior” will eventually raise everyone from the dead. Rather than speak of “going to heaven,” the Christian should ask what the Mormon has to do to be at peace with the “heavenly Father.” This is language they can understand, and will reveal the basis for their salvation. Are they trusting in self-righteousness, or solely in the righteousness of Christ?
Mark J. Cares writes: “Although Mormons commonly appear self-assured and self-righteous, many are undergoing great stress. This is because Mormonism holds up perfection as an attainable goal. The one Bible passage the Mormon church constantly holds up before its membership is Matthew 5:48: ‘Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.’ They then expound on it with numerous exhortations to strive for perfection. Spencer W. Kimball, for example, wrote: ‘Being perfect means to triumph over sin. This is a mandate from the Lord. He is just and wise and kind. He would never require anything from his children which was not for their benefit and which was not attainable. Perfection therefore is an achievable goal’ (Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).
“This emphasis on perfection permeates every aspect of a Mormon’s life. Its most common form is the unending demand on them to be ‘worthy.’ Every privilege in Mormonism is conditioned on a person’s worthiness. Kimball wrote: ‘All blessings are conditional. I know of none that are not’ (Remember Me, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).
“Christians need to recognize that this constant striving for perfection—and the resultant stress it produces—offers an excellent opening to talk to Mormons about Jesus and the imputed perfection we receive through Him.
“Reinforce their predicament. Average hard-working Mormons view this striving for perfection as a heavy but manageable burden. They can cultivate illusions of perfection because the Mormon church has greatly watered down the concept of sin. Consequently, the Christian witness needs to show Mormons both the severity of their predicament and the impossibility of their becoming perfect. In other words, they need to have a face-to-face confrontation with the stern message of God’s Law, because ‘through the Law we become conscious of sin’ (Romans 3:21).
“The Law must first convince Mormons of the severity of their predicament. The best way to accomplish this is to tell them, lovingly but firmly, that they are going to ‘outer darkness.’ (Outer darkness is the closest concept in Mormonism to an eternal hell.) Most Mormons have never been told this, nor have they ever considered that possibility for themselves, since Mormonism teaches that nearly everyone will enter one of Mormonism’s three kingdoms of heaven. Therefore, until you introduce the thought of eternal suffering, they will not feel any real urgency to take your witness to heart. On the contrary, most, if they are willing to talk at all, will view any religious conversation as nothing more than an interesting intellectual discussion.
“Christians often hesitate to be this blunt. They feel that if anything will turn Mormons off, telling them that they are going to outer darkness surely will. I shared that fear when I began using this approach. To my amazement, however, rejection wasn’t the reaction I received. Most have been shocked, but they were also eager to know why I would say such a thing. The key is to speak this truth with love, in such a way that our concern for their souls is readily apparent.
“Alerting Mormons to the very real danger of their going to outer darkness opens the door to telling them the basis for that judgment —which is, they are not meeting God’s requirement for living with Him (they are not presently perfect). The key to explaining this is the present imperative, be perfect, in Matthew 5:48.” See Luke 18:20 footnote for how to go through the Law, and 1 Corinthians 15:58 footnote on how not to be discouraged in witnessing.
“How do I reach my neighbors with the gospel?”
Neighbors are like family. We don’t want to offend them unnecessarily, because we have to live with them. We need to be rich in good works toward all men, but especially our neighbors. The Bible reveals that this is a legitimate means of evangelism. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). It is God’s will that “with well doing you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men” (1 Peter 2:15).
Sinners may disagree with what you believe, but seeing your good works makes them think, “I don’t believe what he believes, but he sure does. He certainly is sincere in his faith.” A friendly wave, a gift for no reason, fresh- baked goods, etc., can pave the way for evangelism. Offer to mow your neighbors’ lawn or help do some painting. Volunteer to pick up their mail and newspapers while they’re on vacation. Compliment them on their landscaping and ask for gardening tips. Invite them over for a barbecue or dessert. Pray for an opportunity to share the gospel, and be prepared for it when it comes.
“I know I’m a sinner, but I confess my sins to God daily. I tell Him that I’m sorry and I won’t sin again.”
If you find yourself in court with a $50,000 fine, will a judge let you go simply because you say you’re sorry and you won’t commit the crime again? Of course not. You should be sorry for breaking the law and, of course, you shouldn’t commit the crime again. But only when someone pays your $50,000 fine will you be free from the demands of the law. God will not forgive a sinner on the basis that he is sorry. Of course we should be sorry for sin—we have a conscience to tell us that adultery, rape, lust, murder, hatred, lying, stealing, etc., are wrong. And of course we shouldn’t sin again.
However, God will only release us from the demands for eternal justice on the basis that someone else paid our fine. Two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay for the sins of the world. His words on the cross were, “It is finished!” In other words, the debt has been paid in full. All who repent and trust in Him receive forgiveness of sins. Their case is dismissed on the basis of His suffering death.
How to Witness to Muslims
In Acts 17:22–31 the apostle Paul built on areas of “common ground” as he prepared his listeners for the good news of the gospel. Even though he was addressing Gentiles whose beliefs were erroneous, he didn’t rebuke them for having a doctrine of devils— “The things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God” (1 Corinthians 10:20). Neither did he present the great truth that Jesus of Nazareth was Almighty God manifest in human form. This may have initially offended his hearers and closed the door to the particular knowledge he wanted to convey. Instead, he built on what they already knew. He first established that there is a Creator who made all things. He then exposed their sin of transgression of the First and Second of the Ten Commandments. Then he preached future punishment for sin.
There are three main areas of common ground upon which Christians may stand with Muslims. First, that there is one God—the Creator of all things. The second area is the fact that Jesus of Nazareth was a prophet of God. The Bible makes this clear: “And He shall send Jesus Christ,…For Moses truly said to the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up to you of your brethren, like to me; him shall you hear in all things whatsoever he shall say to you” (Acts 3:20–22). The Qur’an (Koran) says: “Behold! The angel said ‘O Mary! Allah giveth you Glad Tidings of a word from Him. His name will be (Christ Jesus) the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and the hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah’” (Surah 3:45). In Surah 19:19, the angel said to Mary, “I am only a messenger of thy Lord to announce to you a gift of a holy son.” Surah 3:55 says, “Allah said: ‘O Jesus! I will take you and raise you to Myself.” It is because of these and other references to Jesus in the Qur’an that a Muslim will not object when you establish that Jesus was a prophet from God.
This brings us to the third area of common ground. Muslims also respect Moses as a prophet of God. Therefore, there should be little contention when Christians speak of God (as Creator), Jesus the prophet, and the Law of the prophet Moses. Most Muslims do have some knowledge of their sinfulness, but few see sin in its true light. It is therefore essential to take them through the spiritual nature of the Ten Commandments. While it is true that the Law of Moses begins with, “I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods before Me,” it may be unwise to tell a Muslim, at that point, that Allah is a false god. Such talk may close the door before you are able to speak to his conscience. It is wise rather to present the Law in a similar order in which Jesus gave it in Luke 18:20. He addressed the man’s sins of the flesh. He spoke directly to sins that have to do with his fellow man.
Therefore, ask your hearer if he has ever told a lie. When (if) he admits that he has, ask him what that makes him. Don’t call him a liar. Instead, gently press him to tell you what someone is called who has lied. Try to get him to say that he is a “liar.” Then ask him if he has ever stolen something, even if it’s small. If he has, ask what that makes him (a thief). Then quote from the Prophet Jesus: “Whosoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:27). Ask if he has ever looked at a woman with lust. If he is reasonable, he will admit that he has sinned in that area. Then gently tell him that, by his own admission, he is a “lying, thieving adulterer-at-heart.” Say, “If God judges you by the Law of Moses on Judgment Day, will you be innocent or guilty?”
At this point, he will more than likely say that he will be innocent, because he confesses his sins to God. However, the Qur’an says: “Every soul that has sinned, if it possessed all that is on earth, would fain give it in ransom” (Surah 10:54). In other words, if he possessed the whole world and offered it to God as a sacrifice for his sins, it wouldn’t be enough to provide atonement for his sins. Imagine that a criminal is facing a 50,000 fine. He is penniless, so he sincerely tells the judge that he is sorry for a crime and vows never to do it again. The judge won’t let him go on the basis of his sorrow, or his vow never to commit the crime again. Of course, he should be sorry for what he has done, and of course, he shouldn’t break the law again. The judge will, however, let him go if someone else pays the fine for him.
Now tell him that Moses gave instructions to Israel to shed the blood of a spotless lamb to provide a temporary atonement for their sin; and that Jesus was the Lamb that God provided to make atonement for the sins of the world. Through faith in Jesus, he can have atonement with God. All his sin can be washed away—once and for all. God can grant him the gift of everlasting life through faith in Jesus Christ on the basis of His death and resurrection.
The uniqueness of Jesus of Nazareth was that He claimed He had power on earth to forgive sins (Matthew 9:2–6). No other prophet of any of the great religions made this claim. Only Jesus can provide peace with God. This is why He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
God commands sinners to repent and trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior, or they will perish. To try to justify himself, your listener may say something like, “The Bible has changed. It has been altered. There are many different versions, but the Koran has never changed.” Explain to him that there are many different versions, printed in different languages and in modern English, to help people understand the Bible, but the content of the Scriptures remains the same. The Dead Sea Scrolls prove that God has preserved the Scriptures.
Tell him that the 100% accurate prophecies of Matthew 24, Luke 21, and 2 Timothy 3 prove that this is the Book of the Creator. Your task is to present the truth of the gospel. It is God who makes it come alive (1 Corinthians 3:6,7). It is God who brings conviction of sin (John 16:7,8). It is God who reveals who Jesus is (Matthew 16:16,17). All God requires is your faithful presentation of the truth (Matthew 25:21).